If you train clients remotely, you must be vigilant about safety, in order to minimise risk of injury and potential legal claims of negligence.
In these very different times where ‘work from home’ and ‘complying with social distancing’ have become familiar terms, many fitness providers have turned to virtual classes and sessions.
These services have often been developed in quick response to the ever-changing environment, while trying to maintain a strong level of customer focus.
While delivering exercise online for people to do in their own homes can help to maintain contact with customers, there are consequences to consider.
1. Injury prevention is key
A risk management strategy is an important factor and could begin with an evaluation to identify the potential risks, whether they be physical, financial or legal, and then by developing strategies to mitigate those risks. The risk assessment is an essential component of your health and safety procedure. Educating your customers is an important consideration and can help decrease the risk of injury.
As a trainer, open the class with a statement and some guidelines for users to practise health and safety while they are participating in workouts in their homes.
Some of the following suggestions are precautions that you should already be familiar with from delivering in-person training, while others are more specific to virtual delivery:
- Pre-screen participants before each session. If they have any medical conditions, injuries, illness or any other conditions (such as pregnancy) they should be referred to their GP prior to participation.
- Tell them to make sure their environment is safe and free from any hazards, and they have enough room around them to move safely without any obstacles or obstructions.
- If equipment is needed for the session, advise what is required before getting started (e.g., chair, cushion) and explain that any equipment must be safe and in a suitable condition for the intended purpose.
- Request that they wear comfortable clothing and suitable footwear.
- Remind them to stay hydrated throughout the workout and to have water and a towel close by.
- Advise clients or participants to work at their own pace. Always provide alternative options to the exercise (e.g., easier or more challenging) so they can choose a level suited to them.
- Tell them that they should stop the activity immediately if they are experiencing pain.
- Provide safe and effective instruction throughout the class.
- Advise that children/minors participating should be supervised throughout the activity by an adult.
- If delivering classes or small group training, think about how you can structure sessions to offer different levels (e.g., beginner, intermediate, advanced) to cover all fitness abilities.
It is important that you provide a disclaimer at the beginning of each virtual class. The disclaimer should reinforce that the instructor is not responsible for any injury or harm caused as a result of participation in the session and the participant takes part at their own risk. If you have a website through which clients access online programmes, it is also recommended to have a written disclaimer clearly displayed on the site.
It should be remembered that many people’s physical activity and exercise habits over the past few months have changed. They may just be starting regular activity or resuming it after a hiatus. Quite often, people try to do too much too soon, so we recommend gradually increasing the level of activity over a period of time.
It is a good idea for personal trainers to have the right insurance to include Public Liability and Professional Indemnity cover, in order to protect against unexpected claims from clients and participants.
The insurance will provide indemnity to the insured for legal liability to third parties for damages in respect of accidental bodily injury, illness, disease and for any loss or physical damage to physical property not belonging to you or in your charge or control.
At the end of the day, it is important to balance the level of risk associated with potential insurance claims made against instructors versus the cost and peace of mind of being insured.
However careful and cautious you are, incidents can occur; therefore, in the current environment, it is particularly important for personal trainers to have the right insurance protection in place.
Should an issue arise, you should contact your insurer for assistance at the earliest possible opportunity.
Where to next? Read our Online training – what you need to know blog.